At the base of all power is knowledge. Many gods know this, and such embrace the search for knowledge and imbue their mortal followers with it. The Knowledge subclass is the first domain listed in the Player’s Handbook for Clerics. It focuses on information and utility, rather than raw combat power. While not as brawny as the Forge cleric, or as efficient as the Death domain, Knowledge is a powerhouse archetype with a myriad of tools. So let’s crack open a book and unearth some ancient strength with our Knowledge Cleric 5E Guide.
Read the Scrolls: Knowledge Cleric 5E
Like quite a few domains, the Knowledge Cleric uses versatility and information to increase the Cleric’s usefulness. However, no domain goes quite as far as the Knowledge one towards this goal. Every single aspect of the Knowledge Cleric is for accumulating information, and it does it well. This does mean preparation is key, as it tends to be in 5th edition. Use this domain well, and the planning phase of any expedition becomes massively easier.
A few information spells are arcane-only, so this spell list has a lot of out-of-class power. Other than raw information, the Knowledge cleric’s ability to influence enemies increases by a bit.
The primary usage of these domains are, as has been said, information. Identify, Augury, Speak with Dead, Arcane Eye, Legend Lore, and Scrying fall into this category. Most of these require an item or a person to already be in mind in order for information to be acquired. Plan around spells like Scrying and Legend Lore, since they have immense power, if your mind is in the right place. Be prepared to use spell slots on other, more reactive spells, rather than these.
Nondetection is kinda between information and crowd control, being an anti-information spell. This isn’t super useful for anything other than specific boss encounters that use Scrying. For intrigue scenarios, this spell can be quite awesome, preventing mages from finding your party. Otherwise, don’t be too paranoid.
The other part of the domain list involves messing with your enemies; Command, Suggestion, and Confusion. These all influence what actions your enemy can use; Command and Suggestion take control completely, while Confusion just makes sure enemies don’t do what they want. These are better to use in combat than information spells.
How prepared you want to be for fights determines what aspect of your domain will be more useful. Either you can hold all the cards, or you can make your enemies drop them all over the floor.
Blessings of Knowledge
The first ability that the cleric gets is just oozing with flavor, but is actually quite potent.
At 1st level, you learn two languages of your choice. You also become proficient in your choice of two of the following skills: Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion.
Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of those skills.
The languages don’t matter too much, really. Once you reach 3rd level spells, you gain access to the spell Tongues, which lasts long enough to negate this ability’s benefit. Early on, this will be nice. For example, an Elf can learn Dwarven and Gnomish, which might make talking to those races easier. When taking this ability, talk to your GM about what languages are prevalent in the area before choosing your two.
The bonus proficiencies are spicier. Clerics, as a class, gain 2 skill proficiencies, which limits the amount of Knowledge you are able to dish out. Now, you get to double the amount of proficiencies you would normally have. That’s pretty significant, since it lets you more readily fill the role of Knowledge expert. It’s not quite perfect; dedicating all of your proficiencies to Knowledge skills means you won’t be as persuasive, but it makes sense considering your domain. And backgrounds can help find other, more essential skills.
But that’s not all. Normally, the Cleric doesn’t have enough stat points to get their Intelligence high. That usually means they can’t get their knowledge skills to good levels. But, this subclass doubles proficiency for two of them. That’s huge, and means that the Cleric can land some difficult, late-game DCs without needing high Intelligence.
If we had to suggest two, we’d go for Arcana and Religion. Those are the most typically used checks, with Arcana being far, far more likely. History is (sadly) more of a background skill; not really as important, but could be useful for intrigue-focused campaigns. Nature and Religion kinda swap a bit, based on campaign, but you’re more likely to fight demons than dogs– no offense to Hellhounds – once you reach the late CRs. Once again, talk to your GM about potential plans for the campaign.
Channel Divinity: Knowledge of the Ages
Channel divinity is an important ability, and the level 2 option often makes or breaks a domain. The Knowledge domain…
Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to tap into a divine well of knowledge. As an action, you choose one skill or tool. For 10 minutes, you have proficiency with the chosen skill or tool.
Nice and basic. It’s an out-of-combat option for your Channel Divinity that lets you become proficient with something that’s needed. This is pretty dang flexible, even if it doesn’t do damage. Is that cliff looking high? Tap into the Athletic side of your gods. Maybe you need to be a bit more sociable? Get Persuasion for 10 minutes. There are a ton of options for this, negating the fact that it’s not exactly combat-viable.
You do need an action to do so, requiring some smart preparation. Also, this might be obvious, but choose tool proficiency only if you have the tool with you. It might not be very useful otherwise.
Channel Divinity: Read Thoughts
Another Channel Divinity option at level 6? Usually, I’m not a huge fan, but this one is an exception.
At 6th level, you can use your Channel Divinity to read a creature’s thoughts. You can then use your access to the creature’s mind to command it.
As an action, choose one creature that you can see within 60 feet of you. That creature must make a Wisdom saving throw. If the creature succeeds on the saving throw, you can’t use this feature on it again until you finish a long rest.
If the creature fails its save, you can read its surface thoughts (those foremost in its mind, reflecting its current emotions and what it is actively thinking about) when it is within 60 feet of you. This effect lasts for 1 minute.
During that time, you can use your action to end this effect and cast the suggestion spell on the creature without expending a spell slot. The target automatically fails its saving throw against the spell.
The cool-factor of this ability knows no bounds!
Starting off, you essentially get Detect Thoughts that only targets one creature. That’s not exactly impressive, since it is a little bit worse than the spell. However, you can now read the surface-level thoughts of something with an Intelligence lower than 3. That’s hilarious, and can be useful if an undead minion knows about its master. Your GM may disagree with this interpretation, so ask them before using this. I personally think that, since it mentions Intelligence in Detect Thoughts, but not here, that this absolutely lets you read the thoughts of bugs and rats.
The extra range is another benefit over Detect Thoughts, though it doesn’t seem like you can penetrate walls with this. At least, on initial cast. Use this quickly at the start of an encounter, and then it seems like you always can find them, as long as they’re within 60 ft. Keeping priority targets in check is quite strong.
And that’s not even mentioning the free Suggestion spell tacked on. Suggestion is rarely powerful during combat, but with clever wording, it can become fierce. Demanding that a warlord retreats to the stables is a relatively reasonable request that can save your party’s life. Planning is key here; if your allies harm the Suggested target, the Suggestion ends. Use this spell to stop a fight with a relatively strong enemy, or to thin the crowd of an enemy with low Wisdom. This effect takes a minimum of two turns to kick in, though, and Suggestion is a Concentration spell.
Out of combat, Suggestion becomes immensely strong. You can prevent poisonings without becoming suspicious, alert guards without saying anything, stop a carriage for up to 8 hours, and more. It is one of the most versatile spells in the entire game, and this comes with Detect Thoughts. Using your Divinity for two 2nd-level spells is quite nice.
Unfortunately, it’s clunky and a bit difficult to use in combat. And, unlike other domains, this ability means you don’t get access to more permanent buffs. Channel Divinity is critical for this subclass, so use it whenever you can!
What’s the damage increase, for a subclass with booksmarts?
Starting at 8th level, you add your Wisdom modifier to the damage you deal with any cleric cantrip.
There are currently three damaging Cleric cantrips; Hand of Radiance, Sacred Flame, and Toll the Dead. The former is a melee range Area of Effect that deals d6s. The latter two have 60 ft range, deal d8s, and have some other benefit – Sacred Flame is more accurate and ignores Cover, Toll the Dead deals more to damaged targets. These are all of your options for cantrips to increase damage.
Toll the Dead is a really strong cantrip that can deal up to 4d12 damage at highest levels. That’s good for a ranged build. And Hand of Radiance can hit more than one enemy, so adding Wisdom to that Area of Effect damage is solid.
In either build, you no longer have any reason to use a Strength or Dexterity based weapon. Cantrips now outscale them no matter what, really.
Visions of the Past
Oh boy, get your reading glasses on…
Starting at 17th level, you can call up visions of the past that relate to an object you hold or your immediate surroundings. You spend at least 1 minute in meditation and prayer, then receive dreamlike, shadowy glimpses of recent events. You can meditate in this way for a number of minutes equal to your Wisdom score and must maintain concentration during that time, as if you were casting a spell.
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Object Reading. Holding an object as you meditate, you can see visions of the object’s previous owner. After meditating for 1 minute, you learn how the owner acquired and lost the object, as well as the most recent significant event involving the object and that owner. If the object was owned by another creature in the recent past (within a number of days equal to your Wisdom score), you can spend 1 additional minute for each owner to learn the same information about that creature.
Area Reading. As you meditate, you see visions of recent events in your immediate vicinity (a room, street, tunnel, clearing, or the like, up to a 50-foot cube), going back a number of days equal to your Wisdom score. For each minute you meditate, you learn about one significant event, beginning with the most recent. Significant events typically involve powerful emotions, such as battles and betrayals, marriages and murders, births and funerals. However, they might also include more mundane events that are nevertheless important in your current situation.
Did you catch that? “Reading” glasses? For Object and Area Reading? Ha!
By this point in most campaigns, your Wisdom Score is hopefully 20. That means you get about 20 minutes of meditation. To start off, this is obviously not a combat ability. You are using this before or after a combat situation to get as much information as you can.
Object Reading is the more specific of the two. That doesn’t have a day limit, as it only cares about days if there’s anything concerning change of ownership. This is useful for learning about artifacts, history, truth surrounding history, and subterfuge. Consider using this on things like a Cultist’s knife to find out where the cult is located. Really think about what constitutes an “object” in this case; some GMs may consider the chipped horn of a Demon to be an object, or a spell rune.
Area Reading is less specific, but potentially more useful. 20 days isn’t much time in reality, but for most D&D characters that’s enough time for problems to appear. This blows a lot of “murder mysteries” wide open, since you can just kinda… See what happened. Just through meditation. It can also be useful for finding secret hideouts without using spell slots, or if the hideouts are hidden using Nondetection. A 50 ft cube is quite specific, though, so get some information first!
Best Race for Knowledge Clerics
The Knowledge Cleric, thanks to abilities like Potent Spellcasting and Visions of the Past, really likes Wisdom. Being wise is an essential part of the subclass, so races that naturally have Wisdom bonuses are favored.
Perhaps the best option for a knowledge cleric is the Elf. With great movement speed, high dexterity, and a boost to wisdom, Wood Elves can move fast and sustain high AC in the early game. A really compelling option for a basic cleric.
A member of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion, these creatures have good dexterity and some excellent movement options. You also get to squawk information to your party from above, which is always fun. Ask your GM before taking this race, since flight is pretty insane, especially early on.
Race Notes: Knowledge is for Everyone
Thanks to Backgrounds, getting skills is not really important for the Knowledge cleric. Keep your Intelligence at a good point, and the Knowledge Cleric seemingly builds itself. Because Knowledge Clerics are fans of every single attribute, any race can be useful, from Dwarfs to Bugbears to Aasimar. Just make sure your Wisdom is high enough, and watch your domain give your party the info they need.
Knowledge Domain Gods
All gods value knowledge in some capacity. The gods that have a knowledge domain, however, are categorized in two ways: Gods whose focus is on the accumulation of information. Or, gods of skilled craftsmen, artists, or storytellers. These two groups inevitably need librarians and teachers to expand their clergy, making them prime suspects for this type of cleric.
An open book, emblazoned in gold, hangs upon a chain. The holy symbol of the Sovereign of Law and Lore hangs from the neck of a preacher. Her mind rushes with the power of both the divine and arcane, a paragon of the magical arts. The authority of the Host, the one who gave the mortals the power of magic… All of these are true of Aureon, the patron of Wizards.
Aureon is the Lawful Neutral patron of Wizards, teachers, and librarians. His vast wisdom is legendary across the world of Eberron, and even the gods follow his word. His name is invoked by wizards summoning for examinations, scholars looking for new information, and judges ensuring that justice will be upheld.
Worshippers of Aureon are usually magically inclined, as he is the patron of magic. However, non-magical keepers of knowledge in civilization – from police to scholars – still follow him closely. Some intense worshippers of Aureon may perform sacrifices while seeking knowledge.
As a Knowledge Cleric of Aureon, you will follow an intensive scripture of law and magic. You will be the first person many go to for advice, especially concerning crime and punishment. As such, it is important that your character familiarizes itself with law and other miscellaneous pieces of wisdom.
Many hear the word of the Archmage and imagine a certain figure. A powerful wizard sitting atop a throne. A man with an infinite library and priceless hoard of objects. A seemingly impossible individual with an army of golems, servants, and information. That idea of a wizard comes from Boccob, the god of Magic, Knowledge, Balance, and Foresight.
Boccob is the Neutral Archmage of the gods in the Greyhawk campaign setting. Known as the Uncaring, he offers no specific allegiance, and is willing to occasionally allow specific perusers of knowledge access to his Library of Lore. He teaches magic as the most important force in the cosmos, and is a proponent of magical items and additional colleges to increase the number of people who can use magic.
Worshippers of Boccob typically go to him in search of knowledge. While Boccob’s primary concern is balance, his followers most often discover him while looking for the secrets of the cosmos. Almost all magic users respect him, and all cultures tip their hats to his infinite knowledge and potent magical wisdom.
A Knowledge Cleric of Boccob is a keeper of knowledge, sure. But they are also a preserver of balance. They should encourage the study of magic only to those who seek it. As a neutral entity in the world, finding information for the benefit of travelers and themselves should be the priority. They should prepare for the future and warn about threats to magic and the balance of nature; Good vs Evil, Law vs Chaos.
The Gate of Souls sits in a realm, far beyond the reach of mortals and gods alike. A simple quill is all the Gray Voyager requires as he sits adjacent to the Tobril. His dusted and well-kept library betrays the mediator that sits at his desk, carefully ensuring that good, evil, law, and chaos sit in the balance. His careful planning and guidance is one of the few things keeping Dragonlance intact.
Gilean is the Neutral god of Knowledge and Neutrality. He is known for distancing himself from all but his fellow neutral gods, all of which aided in creation. He believes in free will for all mortals. Legends have it that he is an ascended mortal, brought from the seat of a scholar to a throne of the gods. From there, his concern lies primarily in the preservation of balance.
Worshippers of Gilean tend to be historians of some type. Librarians and scholars call upon him while researching. These writers and storytellers can’t destroy books or knowledge of any kind, but are otherwise free to explore their world to any extent. These people are often on the frontlines, protesting unnecessary wars, crimes against balance, or book burnings.
Clerics of Gilean with the Knowledge domain follow many of the same rules as the general clergy. They must do everything in their power to preserve knowledge. Then, they must use that knowledge to promote balance between good, evil, law, and chaos. While a seemingly simple task, being the sole bridge between these opposing forces is extremely hard work.
Moradin (Forgotten Realms)
Preppy wizards and pasty-skinned scholars are far from the only gods who take control of the concept of knowledge. The Soul Forger’s tenacity and strength carry stories and techniques that have spread through countless dwarven ears. The All-Father’s tasks and tales are known to any dwarf, and those dwarves become teachers to outsiders and newborns alike. Through this, knowledge remains strong and tradition holds firm.
Moradin is the Lawful Good god of crafting and innovation, specifically for dwarves. His love of dwarves is not exactly a hard-and-fast rule, as his blessings can be given to non-dwarves. But, the core of his message of tradition, smithing techniques, and his jovial wisdom can only truly be appreciated by dwarf-kind. As the soul of miners and engineers, his messages are well-known.
Worshippers of Moradin tend to be dwarves and all dwarves respect Moradin. He is their All-Father, after all! However, those who are close to dwarves and are in the mining, engineering, or even fighting professions will send prayers to the Soul Forger. They seek his guidance in affairs of crafting and smelting alike.
Clerics of Knowledge under Moradin tend to be Dwarven traditionalists. Their work largely lies in writing down crafting techniques, laws, and edicts and ensuring they are passed onto the next generation. They can use this knowledge to change their tribes for the better, but they must have good reason to suggest such changes.
The Scribe of the Gods sits on the pantheon of one of the oldest sects of gods in history. His face shaped into a bird, his tome in his hands, the historian known for academic debate and innovation transformed Egypt into the respected ancient civilization it is today. All respect and follow his wisdom whenever possible, leading them to fame, glory, and their destiny.
Thoth is the Neutral god of Scribes and Magic in the Mulhorandi pantheon of the Forgotten Realms. An intellectual, Thoth represents debaters, innovators, and scribes in the regions that he sees over. A neutral entity, he provides advice for all who seek it, as long as they do not worship his only true enemy, Set.
Worshippers of Thoth tend to be in the realm of historians, scribes, or other knowledge-driven debaters. Their concerns lie primarily in introspection and thoughtful productivity. They wish to generate knowledge while defending their libraries and centers of learning.
As a Cleric of Knowledge under the veil of Thoth, you will be asked to preserve Mulan tradition through worship, study, and research. You are a teacher and scholar, as well as a student. Spreading knowledge and defending sciences are both quite important for you. You should also support innovations in the field of research, engineering, and math.
Example Feats for Knowledge Domain Clerics
Knowledge clerics are some of the strongest out-of-combat characters currently available in 5th edition. However, your in-combat potential is, frankly, lacking. Your feats should prioritize both defensive and offensive feats to open your repertoire up a bit.
Fey Touched is a personal favorite feat. The ability to improve your Wisdom by 1 is already a good start, since it offers half of what you’d normally get from an Ability Score Improvement. But, it also gives a few spells that you can cast for free once each, and then are always prepared! Misty Step is a potent 2nd level spell that you will often find use for. It’s a very strong escape tool, a great way to move into range for touch spells, and a consistent way to get out of danger. Always having it prepared is fantastic, since the Knowledge Domain’s 2nd level options aren’t fantastic.
You’d think 1st level Enchantment or Divination spells would be poor. And some are. But spells like Bane, Bless, Command, Detect Magic, Heroism, Hex, Silvery Barbs… They all offer incredible combat control and a great use of a 1st level slot. We suggest taking Silvery Barbs, since the Cleric doesn’t otherwise have a fantastic reaction – outside of Dispel Magic.
Resilient is an immensely simple feat on the surface. It offers a +1 to any ability score and gives you proficiency in that ability score’s saving throw immediately. Granting yourself a +1 to Constitution and a bonus to your Constitution saves will be impactful in the late game, where keeping your Concentration up can be otherwise difficult. It isn’t the only option, though, so it’s just a valid contender.
Shadow Touched functions a lot like Fey Touched, but is largely weaker on all counts. You get the same stat boost and the same mechanical benefit; two spells that you can always prepare and that you can cast once for free. Invisibility is… Strong. It’s a great escape tool, ambush option, and even lets you more easily scout a situation. However, being on an action can be clunky. Be sure to plan ahead to maximize your chances.
The free 1st level spell is, similarly, weaker than Fey Touched. We think that Cause Fear, Color Spray, or Ray of Sickness has okay power. Silent Image can be good if your DM is imaginative.
Tough is one of the most simple feats in the game. +2 HP per level is significant. It’s almost like you’ve obtained a +4 to Constitution! This massive HP bump gives you enough durability to survive an extra hit or two in endgame combats… Not an easy feat at all!
However, you do not gain any bonuses to Constitution Saves. Even a +1 to your Con save can be very handy, making it more likely for you to endure when casting spells. So, it’s not just better to take Tough than +2 Constitution. But, it’s usually a very safe bet for keeping yourself safe.
War Caster offers three major benefits for your otherwise low-power magic user. The first is advantage on concentration checks. This massive boost to your saves can be more impactful than Resilient. Or it can whiff hard. Keep that in mind.
The second is the ability to cast while wielding weapons and armor. Not of too much concern for a Knowledge cleric, but lets you wield basic weapons to be more of a menace in combat.
The final benefit is extremely fun. Being able to cast spells at enemies on their turn is a nuisance. Imagine, they try to run from you, only to be put into a Banishment spell! This can be helpful in close corridors.
Multiclassing for Knowledge Clerics
Clerics only really want, at max, 2 levels of multiclassing. You love your magic and spell slots, and want to at least get 9th level spells. Of your multiclassing options, you do have a few enticing ones.
Druid offer two great benefits for an enterprising Cleric. The first is you do not lose spell slots. Since it is a full spellcaster, you get all 20 levels of spellcasting. That’s a legitimately strong benefit! It’s a Wisdom caster as well, meaning the spells that you get from druid will use your full DC. Low level spells aren’t incredible from druid, but things like Absorb Elements and Entangle have their uses.
The second benefit is from Wild Shape. At level 2, you get the ability to take the Moon Circle, which means you can throw a 10-20 HP overshield onto yourself as a Bonus Action. This can be quite useful for keeping yourself at high health during encounters, though you shouldn’t expect to stay in your basic Wolf forms for very long.
Fighter is at its worst on a Knowledge Cleric… Which means that it’s just crazy instead of game-breaking. Second Wind is handy, and the Defense Fighting Style is good. At 2nd level, you get Action Surge, allowing you to cast 2 spells in a turn whenever you take a Short Rest. That’s… Immensely potent. You can cast Banishment and Power Word Heal in the same round. That can really mess up your foes’ plans! Fighter is always a solid choice for a 2 level dip.
Monk is a good 1 level dip, with 2 levels being optional. Unarmored Defense will let you use Wisdom instead of Armor for your AC. This will almost always be more than basic armor, which is nice. Not very necessary, since you don’t need Martial Arts, but it is nice.
The 2nd level offers Fast Movement and a few ways to spend Ki points for safety purposes, such as Disengaging. Not terrible options, for sure. But you always have to wonder if it is better than Fighter…
Suggested Knowledge Cleric Backgrounds
Backgrounds are important for your character’s flavor as well as offering tangible benefits. 5E’s backgrounds are some of the most mechanical in the franchise. We’ll only offer advice for the mechanical benefits of backgrounds, not if they are strictly the best for your character for flavor purposes.
Acolyte is an okay default option for clerics. It fits into a lot of backgrounds and is great for starting players. Religion and Insight are both good for a Cleric to have by default, though they do rub against your starting skills. Two bonus languages are good for bridging language gaps, and most characters appreciate being spoken to in their native language.
The starting equipment isn’t optimal for you, but having two holy symbols isn’t a terrible thing. As a pious cleric, it might even be beneficial to have two symbols of your god! Alternatively, you can ask your DM to trade the holy symbol out for something else.
Your feature is situational but potent, since theoretically, any library is a home for knowledge clerics. Try to stretch that out whenever you can.
The cliche of the wise old hermit might apply quite well to a knowledge cleric! Free medicine and religion steps on the Cleric’s toes, but that’s perfectly fine. You can take Insight and Persuasion, for instance, and be just fine. The Herbalism kit proficiency is actually fun to use and can be legitimately strong. And the starting equipment is… Mostly just for fun. Starting with a herbalism kit is quite good, though!
Your Discovery is actually a very fun ability that you should bring up to your DM, if you’re having that personal touch on a campaign. Maybe you’ve discovered a link between Wizard and Cleric spells. Or armor that can heal people over time. The possibilities are actually endless!
One of the best options for your Cleric is the Sailor. Athletics and Perception proficiency is completely out of the cleric’s normal tool kit. Perception proficiency is godly! It is the most commonly rolled skill by a huge margin. Your tool proficiencies are fun but rarely important, and your equipment is largely fluff… Though, starting with 10 gold is nice.
Your ability, Ship’s Passage, might come up! If your campaign involves overworld travel, being able to consistently find a ship is exceptional. But, if you don’t need to travel, then the other mechanics of your background is more than enough!
How to Play Knowledge Clerics
Out of Combat
- Use your fantastic skills! The Knowledge Cleric is one of the strongest skill classes in the game. With Blessings of Knowledge, you will be the party’s go-to information checker on your two subjects of choice. Coordinate with your party to cover skills that nobody else has! For instance, if your Wizard has proficiency in Arcana and Nature, you should go for Religion and History.
- Use Channel Divinity Often. When you get Knowledge of the Ages, you’ll be ready to access tools and skills in any situation! Be ready to spend your Channel Divinity on this fairly consistently. Then, when you get Read Thoughts, you can use it to influence battle with Suggestion or ensure that your target is telling the truth. Alternatively, you can use your Suggestion to make the target do something for you outside of combat. For instance, you can use Read Thoughts to have a crime lord give their money to someone else.
- Visions of the Past is almost like cheating. If you are in any sort of crime or mystery scenario and you get to level 17, you basically win. This ability lists that you automatically learn important information no matter what. This can give you information like passwords, secret passageways, or the keys to the past! Use it with abandon!
- Remember your domain spells! While your domain spells offer little in-combat utility, they are important and powerful outside of combat. Augury can get you solutions to hopeless situations, as can Speak with Dead, Legend Lore, or Scrying. You have very powerful options here!
- You are a spellcaster. Use spells! The Knowledge Cleric has strong cantrips, especially after level 8. Don’t risk going into melee or even using a bow! You can stay back and spam Toll the Dead or spend spell slots on aggressive spells to clear the room out. Or, you can support your party with strong spells like Shield of Faith and Holy Weapon.
Knowledge Cleric FAQ
Is Knowledge A Good Domain?
Knowledge is good… But, it is better if you are experienced. Knowing what spells to select is important to being impactful in combat, since your domain doesn’t help you in combat very much. You might want to make this your second or third cleric domain, when you are more comfortable with the spell list.
What Alignment Should My Knowledge Cleric Be?
Most Knowledge clerics should be Neutral or Lawful Neutral. Many knowledge gods in Dungeons & Dragons 5E prefer that alignment.
What is the Best Knowledge Domain God?
You will almost certainly be able to use Oghma as your god if your campaign is set in Faerûn. Otherwise, any god of innovation, storytelling, balance, or wisdom will likely be a fine choice for a Knowledge domain god.
Knowledge Cleric Build
Knowledge clerics are extremely unique and powerful clerics, capable of preparing the party for any out-of-combat situation with enough preparation. However, this leaves the cleric vulnerable during combat, usually relying on the party to keep them alive. A high Wisdom score is key to ensuring you are useful in a fight.
Our knowledge cleric is a Sailor, traveling the world to learn more about it. Our Game Master is letting us play a character from Mordekainen’s Tome of Foes, and we’ve decided to play a Githzerai. This race offers a strong mix of high Wisdom, powerful Advantages against common debuffs, and strong innate spells. If your DM allows you to use different Ability Scores, you can instead improve your Dexterity or Constitution by 1 and your Wisdom by 2. Our DM will also have us use Standard Array to keep things even between all characters.
|5E Knowledge Cleric Build|
|Race: Gith (Githzerai)Ability Scores: STR 8, DEX 13, CON 14, INT 12+1, WIS 15+2, CHA 10Proficiencies: Athletics, Insight, Medicine, Navigator’s Tools, Perception, Water VehiclesStarting Equipment: Mace, Scale Mail, Light Crossbow, 20 Bolts, Priest’s Pack, Shield, Holy Symbol, Club, 50 feet of Silk Rope, lucky charm, common clothes, 10 gpLanguages: Common, Gith|
|Levels||New Features||Choices To Make|
|1||-Spellcasting-Divine Domain (Knowledge)-Knowledge Domain Spells (1st Level)-Blessings of Knowledge||Most of your choices are made during race and ability score selection. However, we still have a few things to look through!Spellcasting: Clerics are fantastically powerful spellcasters, and as a Knowledge Cleric, you have a dedicated job. Pick spells like Healing Word and Guiding Bolt. Healing Word lets you save a Knowledge as a Quick Action. Guiding Bolt is very high damage for this early on. Be ready to swap these out if you need to!Cantrips: Make sure you have aggressive cantrips like Toll the Dead and supportive ones like Guidance. A good mix will keep you active during combat.Blessings of Knowledge: Your languages of choice should be based on your campaign. If your DM offers no additional aid, consider basic languages like Elvish, Dwarvish, Gnomish, Giant, Undercommon, or Orcish. For skills, Arcana, Nature, and Religion are very impactful. We suggest Arcana and Religion, as they are the slightly more common checks to roll.|
|2||-Channel Divinity (1/rest)-Channel Divinity: Knowledge of the Ages||No choices here! Keep an eye on first-level spells like Shield of Faith, Protection from Evil and Good, or Detect Magic for applicable situations.Knowledge of the Ages doesn’t look impactful on the surface. However, by popping this ability at the right time, you can really impact a situation. Getting proficiency in a talking skill can even out a debate. Learning how to drive all of the sudden can make you the best at navigating a treacherous situation.|
|3||-2nd Level Spells-Knowledge Domain Spells (3rd Level)||You have to make up for your low impact domain spells here. Check out magic like Hold Person or Blindness/Deafness, powerful magic that can keep strong enemies in check.|
|4||-Ability Score Improvement||Thanks to the Githzerai’s +2 in Wisdom, we have 17 in a Stat! That’s great for us. You can choose to either add +1 to Wisdom and +1 to Dexterity to get slightly more AC… Or, you can get a feat!We really like Fey Touched, so we’re going to take it. That gets us 18 AC and very strong spell options, opening our list a bit more.|
|5||-3rd Level Spells-Knowledge Domain Spells (5th Level)-Destroy Undead (CR ½)||3rd level spells will transform you from a strong character to an incredible one. Check really strong options like Mass Healing Word, Spirit Guardians, Tongues, Fast Friends, Bestow Curse… You’ve got really strong choices here. Get used to scanning your spell list every day.Dispel Magic will come up quite often. Consider casting it with 3rd level spell slots and higher spell slots over the course of your career.|
|6||-Channel Divinity (2/Rest)-Channel Divinity: Read Thoughts||I don’t love subclasses that double up on Channel Divinity… But this one is crazy. Read Thoughts has highly impactful in and out of combat utility. Out of combat, it lets you read minds for free. In combat, it lets you cast Suggestion for free! Just make sure that your party leaves your Suggestion target alone… At least until they’ve wasted a turn!|
|7||-4th Level Spells-Knowledge Domain Spells (7th Level)||4th Level spells have fewer options but still have potent ones. Consider casting spells like Banishment to isolate targets or Freedom of Movement to save someone’s life.|
|8||-Ability Score Improvement-Destroy Undead (CR 1)-Potent Spellcasting||At this point, we can cap off our Wisdom. While selecting additional feats feels great, we just need that 20 Wisdom. It improves our DCs, which is just exactly what you need.|
|9||-5th Level Spells-Knowledge Domain Spells (9th Level)||Your 5th level options are great! Consider spells like Holy Weapon, Scrying, Summon Celestial, or even Insect Plague for your personal spell list.|
|10||-Divine Intervention||No big choices here. Keep checking out some situational options like Geas, Locate Creature, Magic Circle, and Borrowed Knowledge.|
|11||-Destroy Undead (CR 2)-6th Level Spells||Heal and Harm are a potent duo of spells that can swing a fight into your favor. Even situational spells like Blade Barrier, Heroes’ Feast, and True Seeing can quickly solve fights or problems.|
|12||-Ability Score Improvement||This is a great time to either bump up our Dexterity to 14 with a feat like Resilient or get a feat like War Caster or Tough to improve our survivability.Our Cleric’s been getting hit a bit, so we’ll take Resilient for Dexterity to improve their survivability. Against new threats like dragons.|
|13||-7th Level Spells||These spells are a bit situational, so consider casting Dispel Magic with high level spell slots. You can also take spells like Divine Word, Regenerate, or Resurrection for emergencies.|
|14||-Destroy Undead (CR 3)||Temple of the Gods is a fun spell that can give you a very safe place to hide. Fire Storm is a great area denial tool that functions like a gigantic fireball.|
|15||-8th Level Spells||8th level spells are quite potent. Antimagic Field can completely lock down a mage while your party kicks their butt. Sunburst and Holy Aura are good for combat.|
|16||-Ability Score Improvement||We’ll select a defensive option here. +2 Constitution is a great choice, improving our health and Constitution save. War Caster improves our Constitution save drastically while letting us lock down foes. Tough keeps us alive during combat steps. We’ll go for +2 Constitution, for a total of 16, to have a bit of all worlds.|
|17||-9th Level Spells-Destroy Undead (CR 4)-Visions of the Past||For our 9th level spells, we’ll want to consider options like Gate or Mass Heal for emergency situations where we must swing a fight back into our favor.Visions of the Past is potent, but only in out-of-combat scenarios. Remember that you have this and nobody will be able to hide anything from you!|
|18||-Channel Divinity (3/rest)||Keep cycling your spells! Options like Astral Projection can be effective, Earthquake can upset a war, and Planar Ally can bring strong summons to the battlefield.Multiclassing: We won’t consider multiclassing for this guide. We would say that multiclassing for Fighter is almost always correct here, since Action Surge is so potent. All that you’re missing out on here is a few spells. If you do Multiclass with Fighter, we recommend the Defense Fighting Style.|
|19||-Ability Score Improvement||We want our durability! Tough or War Caster is definitely the choice here. We’ll take War Caster to improve the odds that our +3 to Constitution saves lands positively on our turn. Resilient for Constitution would be an option if we don’t take it for Dexterity!|
|20||-Divine Intervention Improvement||At this point, Divine Intervention becomes a reasonable strategy during a fight. Talk with your DM out of session about what this ability means, since 5E tends to be a bit vague about the full power that your god can bring to the fight. This ability can easily win the fight for you… Or it’ll gently tickle the enemy Lich.|
Conclusion – Our Take on the Knowledge Cleric 5E
The Knowledge domain is a unique one, focusing mostly on gathering information, rather than making itself useful in a fight. Preparation is key to taking full advantage of this potentially powerful subclass, but it can still do great things. Your GM is really important for evaluating how strong this Domain can be, so keep that in mind when designing your smarty-pants Cleric.
Want to see your other Cleric options or how to optimize your character in general? Check out our Comprehensive Cleric 5E Guide!